Dec 23, 2019
In this part of the two-part episode about Linda Darling-Hammond's book With the Whole Child in Mind, we will look at one of the two case studies mentioned in the book, that of Norman S. Weir Elementary School in New Jersey.
The Comer SDP was implemented there starting in 1997 with the appointment of Ruth Baskerville as the school principal. At this time, the school was described as "characterised by student disaffection with the learning process, frequent fights, and low staff morale in a building that was in disrepair". By the end of the 2003-04 school year, the outlook was very different: 100% of Weir 4th-graders achieved full or advanced proficiency on both maths and language arts exams. (Unfortunately I couldn't find data for 1997, but as a comparison, the equivalent averages for the district and the state were 52.4% and 77.6% respectively.)
As for the school environment, in a school questionnaire, faculty and staff reported the school climate as "relaxed", "very good", and "terrific." Others described the collegiality among staff as "excellent," with "fantastic" relationships where "every student and parent is valued."
This close-up description of a success story gives some sense of what it would be like to be in a school operating the Comer process, and helps to add some concreteness to the otherwise abstract and general description from the previous part of my discussion of this book.
Enjoy the episode.